Friday, February 25, 2011

February Update

Well, no success rabbit hunting this month. Aristos and I went out on two Saturdays but didn't even see a cottontail. The first time the snow was deep, and I think it was a bit too cold. Rabbits were probably holed up snug under the snow. We saw tracks and droppings, but no rabbits. The next time we went to the woods, we brought four of our kids along: Aristos's two boys, and my two girls. We went to my parents' property, but didn't hunt long. I think the kids were just a little too noisy. I also suspect that the hunters my Dad allows to go through once a year had an effect on the local population. Despite the lack of hunting success, we did have a nice lunch around a fire in the field. It was good practice for future trips, and I was able to get a nice, hot cooking fire going. I scavenged wood and tinder from the area, just dry grass and various diameter sticks, and used a lighter for ignition. I'd like to get a flint and steel, to try on warmer trips. But the wind was cold, and I was happy when I finally (after about 15 min.) got a sustainable fire. We cooked hot dogs and marshmallows over the flames, and most of the kids had a blast. My younger daughter had a bit of a meltdown due to cold fingers, and I think it hurt too much to thaw them out over the fire. Good thing Grandma's house was a short walk away! The kids had fun exploring the woods and watching my parents' chickens. Any time I can get them outside for a few hours to do something fun helps to increase their enthusiasm for the outdoors.
One of my future trips has been set: there will be a second annual St. Joe River trip in early May. I plan on bringing the girls, plus a friend of mine (and possibly 1 or 2 of his kids) will also be joining us. I'm hoping for more sunshine, less rain this time.
Still haven't used that Cabela's gift card. Still going back and forth about what exactly to use it for. Most likely, it will be a rain jacket. But who knows what "must have" I'll come across?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Recent Hunting Success!

On January 17th, Aristos and I headed to Lapeer County to do some rabbit hunting at another teacher's place. This friend of ours has about 15 acres of great rabbit and deer habitat. Swampy areas with small trees and grasses, rows of pines, brush piles, and ditches. After two earlier hunts with my .22 that resulted in no bunnies bagged, I decided to upgrade to the pump shotgun. Aristos and our host also toted shotguns for this hunt. We brought along two of the beagles, Rufus and Naala. Poor Chloe has developed cataracts and I'm afraid she would run into something and hurt herself. Rufus took last season off to heal a torn ACL, but he looked great this day! Naala showed the best hunt of her life as she chased rabbits back and forth through the underbrush. Our host was a combination third dog/third gun as he took on the task of driving the rabbits towards us. He knew all the spots the rabbits liked to hide, so we heard "one coming your way!" quite a few times.
It was a short hunt, only about two hours long, but the results were fantastic. Aristos had a banner day with 3 rabbits, our host took 2, and I found the mark on one as it sped from under a brush pile. That only equals 6 rabbits, but we bagged 7. One was truly a group effort. It was the smallest, fastest rabbit of the day and also hardest to hit. The dogs were running it through a thick, swampy tangle. When it broke cover we sent as much lead towards it as we could. When the rabbit finally stopped moving, there were empty shells littering the ice and snow at our feet. Later, I discovered that the rabbit had been hit at least twice, so each hunter received 1/3 credit. Who cares, though. We all agreed that it had been a great hunt, we saw a lot of rabbits, took many shots each, and enjoyed a sunny winter day. It was a hunt that we will remember for years and years, and ranks alongside with my 5-rabbit day and 10-point buck. The next hunt is scheduled for next Saturday, and wouldn't it be great if we could repeat our success?
On the paddling front, I have at least 3 trips in the works for the warmer months. The first would be a repeat of last year's Indiana trip. We had a great weekend, despite the near-constant rain. The second trip is a fishing trip on the Manistee River in northern Michigan. Some teacher friends of mine went last year, and have been talking to me about joining them. Sounds like a good time, right after school gets out in June. Finally, the annual Algonquin trip will take a new turn this year. The guys plan on bringing a few kids along this time. My oldest daughter Anna is slated to experience AP for the first time, and hopefully not the last. Other trips, paddling or just on land, are likely to occur as well. I can't wait to get the family out to the woods and on the water!
Oh yeah, I got another Cabela's gift card for Christmas again. Last year I bought a PFD and rain pants with it. This year I will probably replace the raincoat that ripped on my Algonquin trip in August. Any other cool ideas?